Equal Of The Sun
Published by Scribner in June 2012
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
If you enjoy historical fiction, you have probably read dozens of books on the 16th century in England, as the Tudors seem to be so popular in that genre these days. But do you know anything about Iran in the 16th century?
I have to confess: I knew absolutely nothing, though I did imagine women had more power than now, as is the case in many Muslim countries, where women use to enjoy much more direct influence than they do in most countries today.
This was a wonderful read, with well defined and strong characters, especially the 2 main protagonists, Princess Pari and her eunuch servant Jahaver.
Pari is a very smart and cultivated Princess, who loves art and literature, and knows enough of the political situation to try to help her country transition to a new king, with the help of her very dedicated servant.
The background context I thought was rich in information about the mentality of the time, its culture, and its political development, with its multiple factions and intrigues. You like history, mystery, a bit or romance, great prose? You will find all this in this historical novel.
Another thing I discovered was the world of eunuchs, their feelings and reactions towards women. There are lots of details about this, and this is really the first time I read at such length on eunuchs.
Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi did exist, but the Chronicles of the time being written by men who actually did not have too much contact with the feminine world of the court, there was plenty of latitude for the writer. Whats she recounts seems to fit really well with the context she describes.
It was a delight to be able to read my now favorite genre, historical fiction, in one of the 52 countries I am visiting through books this year.
And oh, did you see the cover? It is so gorgeous, and if you could touch it! Colors are even engrossed! This is I think my favorite book cover of the year. I DO partly judge the book by its cover sometimes, well, before reading it, of course.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Legendary women—from Anne Boleyn to Queen Elizabeth I to Mary, Queen of Scots—changed the course of history in the royal courts of sixteenth-century England. They are celebrated in history books and novels, but few people know of the powerful women in the Muslim world, who formed alliances, served as key advisers to rulers, lobbied for power on behalf of their sons, and ruled in their own right. In Equal of the Sun, Anita Amirrezvani’s gorgeously crafted tale of power, loyalty, and love in the royal court of Iran, she brings one such woman to life, Princess Pari Khan Khanoom Safavi. Iran in 1576 is a place of wealth and dazzling beauty. But when the Shah dies without having named an heir, the court is thrown into tumult. Princess Pari, the Shah’s daughter and protégé, knows more about the inner workings of the state than almost anyone, but the princess’s maneuvers to instill order after her father’s sudden death incite resentment and dissent. Pari and her closest adviser, Javaher, a eunuch able to navigate the harem as well as the world beyond the palace walls, are in possession of an incredible tapestry of secrets and information that reveals a power struggle of epic proportions.
Based loosely on the life of Princess Pari Khan Khanoom, Equal of the Sun is a riveting story of political intrigue and a moving portrait of the unlikely bond between a princess and a eunuch. Anita Amirrezvani is a master storyteller, and in her lustrous prose this rich and labyrinthine world comes to vivid life with a stunning cast of characters, passionate and brave men and women who defy or embrace their destiny in a Machiavellian game played by those who lust for power and will do anything to attain it. [Goodreads]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born: November 13, 1961 in Tehran, Iran.
Childhood: After my parents separated when I was two, I was raised by my mother in San Francisco. When I was thirteen, I began going to Iran on my own and spending time with my father’s side of the family. In San Francisco, my family was an intimate group that consisted of me, my mother and my aunt; in Tehran, a family dinner party was like a town hall meeting, huge and festive. I had eleven cousins and before long, two little brothers.
Major Childhood Event: My father took me on a trip to Isfahan when I was fourteen, even though he was busy building his business and didn’t have much time for leisure. Because I loved art and architecture, he agreed to take me for two days. I remember being mesmerized by the great square of Isfahan and by the painted plasterwork on the staircase of our hotel, a former caravansary.
Another Life-changing Event: I decided to take a year off between high school and college and spend it in Iran. That year, 1978, turned out to be the fateful year leading to the Islamic Revolution. That summer, we heard gunfire and watched the sky turn black with smoke from fires. On my seventeenth birthday, the city was under an evening curfew. We went out for lunch and had cake at home. Less than ten days later, my father and stepmother decided the situation was unsafe. We packed up my brothers, who were two and four, and left for what turned out to be a long time.
Education: The following fall, I started at Vassar College. I attended for two and a half years and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where I majored in English. I loved school. I have since received an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.
Career: I teach writing and literature to college and master’s degree students. Before selling my first novel, I worked for ten years as a dance critic and arts writer at two newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as an arts publicist. I felt very lucky to be able to write about dance, which unfortunately is getting less and less print coverage as newspapers downsize. [from the author’s website]
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